It is important to know what you believe. It is also important to know why you believe what you believe and to be able to articulate it both verbally and in writing. Why? Because if you cannot explain something, chances are, you do not really understand it.
I challenge the women who have taken my Institutes of Biblical Law class who are the primary teachers of their children, to share what they have learned within the context of their homeschool curriculum. I encourage them to have their children write position papers or what some call point of view papers to stimulate discussion and flesh out areas of misunderstanding and doubt. Some families make it a graduation requirement prior to declaring their home education with a son or daughter complete, that they write on a variety of topics.
What follows here is one such paper from the daughter of one of my Chalcedon Teacher Training Institute international graduates. It is the product of years of the mother transmitting the orthodox faith in a deliberate and engaging manner to her children, while learning it herself. This young woman’s thoughts are an encouragement to me because she will someday be a wife and mother herself, whose understanding of the law-word of God will make her a full-fledged Proverbs 31 woman. The man and children who inherit this young woman will be blessed indeed.
"Do I Choose or Does God? "
By Rachel Zimmerman
"If there are any here who have never asked God to forgive their sins and invited Christ to come and dwell in their hearts, please feel free to come forward. The altars are always open,” says the pastor to close his sermon. In a middle aisle, a woman stands and makes her way to the front of the church. As the she kneels at the altar, a deaconess comes, and getting down beside her, guides her through the sinner’s prayer. When the woman rises again, her face wears an expression of joy and peace. What caused her to go forward though? Why did she ask Christ to forgive her, to come live in her heart, and to transform her life? Did she do it of her own initiative or did someone else prompt her to do it? Do people choose to accept Christ of their own free will, or does God choose certain people to be saved and cause the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts so that they will accept Christ? Christians today often disagree on this issue of human free will or God’s election in regards to salvation. Their differences of opinion on these doctrines have given rise to the formation of separate church denominations. What does Scripture teach about this controversial topic though? Scripture clearly teaches that God chooses who will repent of their sins and be saved.
In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul writes about God’s sovereign choice in regards to salvation. First Paul begins by explaining that all men died with Adam when he sinned. Paul reiterates that all men are sinners multiple times; thus because of man’s sin nature “man is passive except when God stirs him to respond by His Spirit.”[i] Man cannot choose God except when God enables and moves him. to do so. In chapter six, Paul says that the “wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 23). Later Paul quotes what God said to Moses in the Old Testament, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy” (9:15a). From these passages Christians can understand that because all men have sinned all men deserve death, but that God gives the gift of mercy, salvation, to some instead of the just punishment they deserve. This concept, that God gives mercy to only a few, may seem unjust. Returning to Scripture though, Christians can find that Paul anticipates this reaction and answers it with the question “who are you, O man, to talk back to God” (9:20) and the analogy of clay asking the potter why he made it into what he did. Hence the book of Romans declares that God selects who will receive the gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Ephesians, another book of the Bible written by Paul, also supports the assertion that God picks who will believe and be saved. In this book, Paul again outlines the same claim that all men are sinful and that God freely gives the gift of salvation to those he has predestined to receive it. Verses in the first chapter of this book specifically use the terms “chose” and “predestined,” so unmistakably God chooses those who will follow Him thus predestining them. Paul then explains, “for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (2:8), “for any good deed we do, any righteous choices that we make, are only because God is at work within us.” Therefore when a person decides to follow Christ, they do so because God in His mercy and love for them caused them to, so that they would be made alive in Christ. The book of Ephesians affirms this and declares that God chose those who would believe before the creation of the world (1:4).
Throughout Biblical history, God demonstrated His authority to choose and call certain people to follow Him. God chose to call Abraham to follow Him and to make him into a great nation. The Lord decided that His promise to Abraham would continue through Abraham’s son Isaac not his son Ishmael. Then, as is says in Romans chapter 9, the Lord selected Jacob, Isaac’s son, as the one His covenant with Abraham would rest on before his mother had even given birth to him. Long afterwards when the Israelites demanded a king, God chose first Saul and then David to lead His people. Later after Israel and her kings had gone astray, God repeatedly picked men as prophets to speak His words to His people Israel. God explained this to the prophet Jeremiah when He said, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5). Christ during His time on earth called twelve men to become His disciples. They became apostles and were, by God’s gift, given faith and the Holy Spirit to spread God’s Word. After Christ died, God called Saul to stop persecuting the church and instead follow Christ and spread the Gospel. Thus, in studying the stories of people throughout the Bible, readers see God ordaining people for particular callings, and this helps them to understand that God still elects certain people to be His today.
Some Christians do not believe that God chooses who will receive salvation. They believe that man chooses whether or not they will accept Christ and be saved. Christians call this free will. Free Will Baptists support this doctrine with several verses of Scripture, namely John 3:16, Romans 10:13, and Revelations 22:1. Both the verse in John and the verse in Revelations use the term “whoever” when referring to who will be saved, and the verse in Romans employs the term “everyone.” Each of the verses essentially conveys the same information, any person who believes will obtain salvation. Free Will Baptists take this to mean that, “all men have a free will to accept or reject the Gospel.” However, Jesus Himself said to His disciples, “the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand’” (Luke 8:10). Clearly then because God only enabled some of the people who heard Jesus’ teachings to understand them, they did not have free will about understanding and accepting what He said. God chooses who will understand what Scripture teaches and enables them to accept it and thus receive the salvation promised to those who believe in the aforementioned verses. These verses serve as a promise to those who God has allowed to believe that they will indeed inherit the Kingdom of Heaven not as a proof that anyone can have faith and receive salvation. Therefore, Scripture supports the doctrine of election not that of free will.
The Bible instructs people that God selects who will trust in Jesus and obtain eternal life. Those who understand this have a profound sense of security because they understand that since God chose them, they will not lose their salvation if they stumble and fall at times.
I have reaped the peace that this understanding brings myself. For years I wondered how I could know that I truly had received salvation. Eventually I brought my doubts to my father; he showed me passages from Scripture which discussed faith and salvation. From our discussion, I gathered that if I had faith I would be saved. Though I felt comforted for a time, the same doubts swiftly began to plague me again. How could I know for certain? What if the faith I thought I possessed was not actually genuine? What if I made too many mistakes? These doubts left me in a state of fear each time I thought about eternity. Then my mother learned about the doctrine of election and explained it to me. We had never before comprehended the truths of Scripture explained by this doctrine. Once I did though, I found that God had given me the weapons I needed to fight back whenever the devil tried to stir up fear and doubt in my heart. God gave me the gift of salvation because He chose me not because I chose Him. This truth has freed me to move past the fear I felt and continue to learn how I can better honor and serve the Lord.
Rushdoony, Mark, The Will of God or the Will of Man? (Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon Foundation, 2002).
Sproul, R. C., Does God Control Everything? (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2012).
Hayes, Edwin, “Why I Am a Free Will Baptist,” Ohio State Association of Free Will Baptists, WordPress, April 2011, www.ohiofwb.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Why-I-am-FWB1_Layout-1.pdf.